The history of the SPORTS `N SPOKES Junior Athlete of the Year

Since 1986, SPORTS `N SPOKES has recognized the athletic achievements of junior athletes with the SPORTS `N SPOKES Junior Athlete of the Year.

SPORTS `N SPOKES founding editors, Cliff and Nancy Crase believed there needed to be an award that recognized the passion, dedication and sportsmanship of the junior athletes competing across the country.

The Junior Athlete of the Year Award was based on Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Jack Gerhardt Athlete of the Year Award, an award Cliff earned himself, along with many other prestigious accomplishments. Cliff understood firsthand the many hours young athletes spend training and competing and working to be the best at what they do. He also understood that above all else, they simply want to compete and be athletes. The SPORTS `N SPOKES Junior Athlete of the Year Award was created to recognize just that ­– the athlete.


The first SPORTS `N SPOKES Junior Athlete of the Year Award was presented to Luis Betts, 14, at the third Junior National Wheelchair Games in June 1986.

Betts beat out runners-up Sara Noel Barker and Anthony Lara, but not solely for displaying top athletic performance. Nominees are also judged based on their contributions to their schools, communities and their sportsmanship and leadership qualities.

In 1993, SPORTS `N SPOKES presented two first-place awards for the first time in its history, but it wouldn’t be the last time. Shannon Morrisey of Kansas and Feike Waque of Holland took home the award in 1993, and in 1995, Ashley Hovey of Colorado and Tyler Byers of Washington both won. It would be eight years before we saw duel first-place winners but in 2003, Mia Ives-Rublee of North Carolina and Kevin Hosea of Ohio won.

For much of its history, the SPORTS `N SPOKES Junior Athlete of the Year Award has gone unchanged. Mimicking its adult award counterpart, the junior award was a sturdy wood and bronze plaque with raised inscriptions bearing the name of the recipient. Today, recipients are presented with an engraved silver platter. They also receive other prizes such as a complimentary yearlong magazine subscription, a custom-built wheelchair and their photo on the front cover of SPORTS `N SPOKES.

New for 2019, the winner will receive the SPORTS `N SPOKES Education Scholarship in the amount of $1,500. A giant check bearing the name and scholarship amount will be presented to the winner, and the scholarship will be held in trust by Paralyzed Veterans of America until the athlete enrolls in an accredited school of higher learning.

Today, the SPORTS `N SPOKES Junior Athlete of the Year is presented at the closing ceremony of the Move United Junior Nationals, formerly known as the Adaptive Sports USA Junior Nationals.

Nominations run throughout the calendar year and officially close on June 15 of the current year. Athletes must be age 21 or younger prior to June 15 of the calendar year.

Those interested in nominating an outstanding young athlete should fill out the nomination form.

Thanks to Cliff’s passion for sports, his desire to show the world that people with disabilities are capable of accomplishing great things, his treatment of athletes with disabilities and for providing a voice for people with disabilities, SPORTS `N SPOKES continues to be the premier resource for wheelchair sports and recreation.

If you know an outstanding young athlete, nominate him or her today.